CONFIG is a software system designed as an expert system for sale representatives to assist them manufacture products without errors before they quoted prices. Markus and Keil explain that it was specifically targeted to CompuSys computer Company in reduction of costly allowances in their supply of hardware free of charge to their customers. It was established after recognizing that some price quotations were placed on various specifications of products that were inaccurate. Initially the system worked properly since it gave configurations of high quality. They aimed at providing required infrastructure to enable configuration optimization in the creation process. They offered enough technical and managerial resources to achieve their target (11).
Why did it fail
Sales representatives never used CONFIG, thus the problem of the company remained unsolved. Sales representatives supported their lack of use by indicating that the design of CONFIG interface was poor, their hardware was inaccessible, and that they were not adequately trained and supported. Although the company initiated a multimillion-dollar program, the sales representatives never appreciated it because they were not motivated and trained on use of the system. The system was complicated with many menus and procedures, which were difficult to be understood by sales rep. there, were no orders and directions from top managers in the organization to monitor, supervise and coordinate the use of the system(12).
– What are the local political considerations that affected the adoption of CONFIG in the specific business/organizational context in which it was implemented?
Adoption of CONFIG was affected by the culture and politics of CompuSys employees. They were allowed to make their own choices regarding tools for use when doing their jobs. Their employers viewed them as professionals. They had assumptions such as making use of good systems. Major problem lay in trainings and human factors. CONFIG accessibility was limited by its design to run on shared-line printer terminals. In addition, the system used many commands and menus, which were hard to remember by sales representatives. They forwarded complains of being lost and confused in their navigation process through its numerous menu layers. Sales men were demoralized since they operated on hit and miss tactics in its developmental years.
It was difficult and costly to update the interface due to its complexity since it was joined with expert system logic. Sales reps were not motivated in their production of error free configurations. CONFIG aimed at preventing configuration errors in manufacturing and not sales. Thus, there were no errors in manufacturing sectors but they affected sales. Thus, sales reps were rewarded according to volume of their sales, which demoralized them since there were no reports on accuracy or monitoring.
Politically there were no policies to curb dirty orders economically thus no factoring allowance costs in sales reps compensation. District managers and other responsible government officials were not attentive on sales measurement systems or monetary rewards. As a result, they did not detect incorrect configurations among sales reps. In addition sales reps were not responsible of verifying the accuracy of sales configurations.
Disincentives were present among sales reps, which hardened their sales processes.
Radical solutions, which could have solved the root causes of the problem, were not identified. CompuSys could have solved the problem of complexity and incentives by offering many different configurations to customers and avoid limiting them to only one type. Moreover, it would have employed the strategy of reduced options of their products, offer standard configurations, and including cables in all ports. The strategies would have reduced complexity of their products. CompuSys would have contributed in motivating sales reps by rewarding them differently, measuring errors, and monitoring its development. They could have offered additional information on costs incurred in correction of configuration errors (13-15).
What are the role/responsibilities of the system designer implied by this analysis of a software failure?
CONFIG system designers had a role of offering adequate information on how to correct configuration errors among sales reps. It was their responsibility to offer enough training on how to interact with user interface to make it simpler and motivating for them. They were responsible of spending low sums of money in building monitoring systems of low technology as well as monitoring systems. Meeting the above responsibilities would have convinced sales clerks to accept the use of CONFIG after its availability.
They are responsible of offering incentives to sales organizations while solving problems of configuration. They should influence top managers to attract the attention of champions and combine their support from political institutions in solving configuration errors. They should have motivated sales reps to accept the system by correcting present faults instead of forcing them to faulty systems. It was their role to ensure that CONFIG was measured according to correct and standard metrics. They would have outlined the benefits of using the system and the corresponding financial costs to be incurred during its usage. Managers should have been motivated to ensure use of the system by their sales rep. As a result, sales rep would have used the system according to directions of their superiors. Moreover, designers required to integrate CONFIG and PQS to quote prices to their customers before closing sales. Verification of qualification would have been automatic since quotations were offered with less work (16-17).
Markus, Lynne., and Keil, M. “ If we build it, they will come: Designing information systems that people want to use.” Sloan management review,35.4 : (1994), 11-25.